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Re-watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe - My Favourite Is? (Spoiler, it's Iron Man 2 and here's why)

In preparation for Marvel's Infinity War I decided to watch every Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie going way back to 1978's Superman through to 2017's Justice League... ahhh.... got ya! Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. (Though if you don't know what's wrong with what I just wrote, what are you even doing here?)

I actually went back and watched all the MCU movies (only movies, not the TV/Netflix series) starting with Iron Man (2008) through to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017). The last three films, Spider-Man Homecoming (2017), Thor Ragnarok (2017), and Black Panther (2018), I don't yet own copies of on DVD or Blu-ray (but I will be rectifying that soon). I didn't re-watch them because they're still pretty fresh in my mind.



The complete list of MCU movies to date (pre Infinity War) is listed below - thanks Wikipedia. I won't be reviewing all of them here, that's not the point of this article, but if you do want to know what I thought of each film at the time I first saw them follow the links to those I reviewed.

Phase One



Phase Two



Phase Three




My Opinion Over all



I'm more of a DC movies fan, which I only mention so you don't think I blindly worship Marvel, but I've enjoyed every single Marvel Movie since Iron Man. Granted there are some with more interesting and engaging story lines than others but all of them have been entertaining, and all have more sequences and moments that make them enjoyable, than things that don't work within the film.

In re-watching them all (in release order) I was surprised to discover that my opinions had shifted on which I'd list as my favourite. I've also gravitated to ones that most people list as their least favourite, such as Thor The Dark World - which I actually think is a strong movie let down by a confusing third act. (interestingly on the DVD there is a single deleted scene that goes some way towards explaining what Jane Foster is trying to do in the third act battle).

The most interesting thing to me is, regardless of which movie you like the least, for the most part it's still a good movie with a lot to like about it.

Why is Iron Man 2 My Favourite?




I was surprised that this emerged as my favourite. Particularly as it's often cited as the most unnecessary MCU film, created to cash in on the success of the original film, and doing little more than setting up future movies.

However, here's what I really like about it:

  • It's Tony Stark pre-Avengers, pre-New York Battle. He's still a maverick, still thinks he's invincible, and still thumbs his nose at authority. He hasn't yet realized the burden of being Iron Man or the responsibility of it all.
     
  • The interaction between Stark and Agent Coulson. By this film the quippy stand off between Stark and Coulson really starts to flourish. There's kind of mutual respect but each has a goal that's at odds with the other that's fun to watch them dance around. Steve Rodgers kind of fills Coulson's shoes in subsequent films but it's more fun to see just a regular guy verbally sparing with Tony. (...and ever since the collapse of SHIELD I miss their involvement with the top tear superhero characters).
     
  • The interaction between Stark and Justin Hammer. Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer is reason enough to enjoy this film. He wants to out-Stark Tony Stark and very nearly does both as the character and in Sam's performance. He's not really a bad guy he's just willing to cut some not quite legal and very shady corners to get ahead of his competition.
     
  • Black Widow. This is the first time Agent Romanoff appears in the MCU and she gets a chance to demonstrate why she is capable of standing alongside the other Avengers, and Captain America in his films, without anyone questioning her lack of superpowers. Hawkeye never gets these kind of solo opportunities (not even in the first Thor movie), as a result his value is always questioned in the team up movies. The hallway fight scene assisted by Happy Hogan is still one of Black Widow's best to date.
     
  • Stark Expo and the AC/DC sound track. It's all just so over the top and fun at the Expo, and we don't really get popular music like this in another MCU movie until Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.1. Both of these things really established Stark as the rock star billionaire that we all initially fell in love with.
     
  • Garry Shandling. Garry plays it straight as Senator Stern in a performance that is really paid off in Captain America Winter Soldier. Without Senator Stern's part in this movie you not only get less of Stark thumbing his nose at authority, you also learn later, that Stark was right not to want to hand over the Iron Man suit to these people.
     
  • War Machine origin movie. Not only do you get to see a fight between Iron Man and War Machine (the very first hero vs hero fight in the MCU), you also get to see them fight along side each other later in the movie. The dialogue between them during the fight in the final act is a lot of fun.
     
Much of what I like IS setting things up for future films and that's why I like Iron Man 2. The long tail arc of the MCU really starts with Iron Man 2 more than the first Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk. It's at this point Marvel really had the confidence that their strategy for an Avengers team up movie was working.

It's not a perfect Marvel movie by any stretch. Whiplash, as the villain, doesn't really have that strong a motivation for destroying Stark, and his approach was clumsy to say the least, public flogging? For a guy who's pretty much on the same level as Start intellectually you'd think he'd have more of a Zemo-like plan (Captain America Civil War) that Stark just wouldn't see coming until there was nothing he could do to stop it.

Whilst I liked all the additional info we get about Howard Stark his whole side story about the new element was just a little too convenient. It's never really clear why Howard felt the need to hide his discovery in the way he does at the time. Initially it seems like a genius move but was it really? Who was he hiding it from if he left his film reel with SHIELD - suggesting he didn't know that organisation was compromised from the beginning?

Despite those points, I just find this movie to be a whole lot of fun. It's the last time we really get to see rock star Tony Stark before he really starts 'growing up' and becoming responsible Tony (who he actually doesn't like being much of the time).

There are way better constructed stories in the MCU but Iron Man 2, for me, is interesting because it is mostly a set up for future films. In hind sight, it's interesting to see how these things started, knowing how they pan out. I really enjoy it for that.

The first time you saw Iron Man 2 you may have rolled your eyes at it but in the context of the current, wider MCU it's very much a foundation building block. Quite a lot of what comes later has its beginnings in Iron Man 2. It's Marvel, taking off the training wheels and saying once and for all, we're doing this shared universe thing so lets start really building it.

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